In our own parish, as well as in hundreds of others, the use of nonliturgical songs would not be permitted.
Q. Recently, the funeral of Beau Biden (the vice president's son) was televised nationally. The hymns consisted mainly of show tunes and songs by popular artists. In our own parish, as well as in hundreds of others, the use of nonliturgical songs would not be permitted. Why are the politically elite given "passes" that ordinary Catholics don't merit? And doesn't the hierarchy realize how this disparity in treatment affects us all? (Suffolk, Virginia)
A. I believe it is inaccurate to say that the music at the Biden funeral "consisted mainly of show tunes and songs by popular artists." I have just reviewed the two-hour taping of that liturgy, and I find it replete with oft-used religious hymns. Among them, "My Shepherd is the Lord," "Ave Maria," "Amazing Grace," "On Eagles' Wings" and "Be Not Afraid."
I might point out, too, that the simple fact that a song takes its origin from a Broadway musical does not make it a "secular" song. I'm thinking of the beautiful rendition at the funeral of the song "Bring Him Home," which in Les Miserables was a prayerful plea for God's protection of a young man facing danger in war.
Also, the fact that Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman popularized "A Time to Say Goodbye" doesn't disqualify a song whose lyrics deal with death and love's power over it.
Where I do agree with you is with the inclusion of the song "'Til Kingdom Come," sung at the funeral by Chris Martin, a member of the musical group Coldplay. Upon hearing that Beau Biden had been a fan of the group's music, Martin volunteered to sing at the Mass.
This was truly a generous gesture, very much appreciated by the Biden family, but I have searched in vain through that song's lyrics for any semblance of the "sacred."
So I believe you are right that this single song departed from the Vatican's 1967 decree "Instruction on Music in the Liturgy" ("Musicam Sacram"), which says (in No. 43) that "the introduction into the celebration of anything that is merely secular, or that is hardly compatible with divine worship, under the guise of solemnity should be carefully avoided."
Q. I am very concerned about those who receive Communion when they are living outside the bounds of Church law. I see people every Sunday taking the body and blood of Christ who are on their second (or even third) marriage. As a devout Catholic, what am I supposed to do? Look the other way and pretend that it's all right? I feel as though I am sinning by saying nothing, yet I don't want to be an "informant." Is the reality that this is simply between them and their Lord?
One is from another country, and I understand that he left a wife and a son there. I know that he has been married twice here in the States, with a child each time; right now he is on another wife from his own country and has two children by her. I have been told that this habit is tolerated in other countries. What advice can you give me? (South Carolina)
A. My advice would be for you to focus on the state of your own soul, not on that of others. You may not be privy to all of the circumstances, e.g., whether someone might have received a Church annulment from a previous marriage.
But I do agree that not enough attention is given to the worthiness required for receiving the wondrous gift of the Eucharist.
So I think that an occasional reminder is in order -- either from the pulpit or in a Sunday bulletin. Perhaps it might say something like this:
"If anyone is living in a marriage that has not been recognized by the Catholic Church, it would be wise to consult with a priest to see whether that situation might be rectified. It could be as simple as repeating your marriage vows quietly in front of a priest and receiving the Church's blessing. In that way, one would become eligible to receive the sacraments of the Church, especially the Eucharist."
Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at firstname.lastname@example.org and 40 Hopewell St., Albany, N.Y. 12208.
Father Kenneth Doyle is a columnist for Catholic News Service